Once again, we come to our shared time of prayer, and we come with a palpable sense of movement, which we share with the whole of Scottish society, as the regulation, discipline and expectations placed on every individual begin to change, and – it’s difficult to escape icy metaphors, isn’t it? – a thaw sets in.
As I finish this note to you off, a virtual – and very real – meeting of the Business Committee is about to start. The work of processing and applying the information and advice on emerging into new phases of this evolving pandemic – the collective leadership we offer – is already begun, and being shaped.
Our congregations, and especially their Sessions, within the bounds look to the Presbytery both for guidance and also for reinforcement. Decisions they will take, framed by our own decisions as a court, will be grounded in their own perceptions of where their members, and their communities are – and will inevitably be second-guessed! We will need to “have their backs”, as the Americans say.
We have reached a point when the demands and expectations on us are about to multiply, whether what lies ahead of us is a best-case or worst-case scenario, or, more likely, something in between. And we know what we pray for! It seems to me that our job, now, is to nurture hope, to bind wounds, to shape expectations, and to be realistic and responsible. And yet again, I’m aware that I’m not telling you anything you don’t know.
It seems appropriate to use our time in shared prayer (about eight and a half minutes, on average, according to YouTube!) this week reflecting on the work before us, and asking for strength and vision to do it.
Yet again, these prayers are offered to gather together what we know and offer that to God, to draw us into shared and individual reflection on where we are, what it means, and where we may be being called to go. They reflect my own uncertainty, and need.
And they are to enable us to pray for each other, and know that we are prayed for by each other. Use the time – mid-day on Wednesday; use the words if they help – if not, use others! But pray…
Yours in the adventure of Christ,
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is thy faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
The LORD is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul that seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD. (Lamentations 3:21-26)
Take heed, watch; for you do not know when the time will come. (Isaiah 55:33)
For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:24-5)
Besides this you know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed… (Romans 13:11)
i) Our Calling
we are your Church, to your glory, and for the world!
That is our calling, nothing less.
There is the shape of our faith –
that Jesus calls us to live in the world:
- that where we cannot see, we ask, and are guided;
- that where we do not know the day, or the hour, we know you, and trust in you, and have hope;
So we, your Church wait:
- patiently, with an impatient world
- impatiently and actively for the coming of your kingdom
- waiting for the doing of your loving will
on earth, as it is in heaven.
ii) Our Situation and Society’s
And we have waited, with our communities, and our whole, impatient society.
and there are those who have found this waiting hard,
and waiting like this – this lockdown – almost unendurable.
For those shielding, and those shielding them;
For those who have found it so difficult to go out
When going out, for them, was always with friends,,
Or to go to friends or family,
Or to go out, and away from the regularity of life
For a day out.
For those who long to worship in the community of their congregation again…
Lord, hear our prayer.
For our society, in its duress and frustration,
its anticipation of the easing of restrictions,
and its impetuous urge, not always mastered
to push ahead, seeking something that might be normal,
terrified of the certainty that things will be different,
yet perhaps ready to embrace radical change to its life,
Lord of hope, let us offer your hope.
iii) For the Church in the World
This week, we pray for ourselves,
not in selfish preoccupation,
but because we are a Presbytery, with work to do,
leadership to offer, and support and help expected of us.
We have guidance to assimilate, and to process.
Sessions and congregations looking to us,
The expectations and apprehensions of our flock – your flock –
to listen to, attentively and lovingly,
and shape, according to what we know,
And what we can only guess at.
We pray for them…
We thank you for the work of co-ordinating work of the Business Committee,
for the work of the Presbytery’s Committees,
creative and responsive, responsible and expert;
for Conveners and members,
for those who offer pastoral care in our name.
We cannot pray for ourselves without praying for each other;
for we together are this Presbytery.
We pray for each other and ourselves
In our shared calling.
We have in our prayers the churches in the communities within our bounds,
delighting in their calling, local and universal,
To be outcrops of the Great Church in the places you have put them,
and unsure of how to do it in this alien timescape.
As we ask you to empower us, they seek us to empower them,
We pray for them…
We have the national leadership of the Church to uphold in prayer,
the expertise they consult and disseminate to attend to,
their duty, like ours, of planning for a future different to any we had planned for,
and which we still cannot imagine.
We hold them in our prayers.
And we have the public witness of the Church
to the Gospel and its hope –
ourselves, and the congregations
of all the other traditions within our bounds, all together –
to attend to: this above all.
We pray for the unity of our shared witness.
And we have our pastoral care of each other laid upon us,
the easy yoke and light burden of Jesus,
in which we delight – for we delight in each other.
We hold each other in our prayers.
Our prayers for ourselves are prayers for these others.
Our high privilege is to serve, to enable, to mediate, to lead, to listen.
How can we do any of this without your patient, gentle strength,
the vision you inculcate,
the impossible possibilities you alone can open?
Lord, hear us.
Lord, graciously hear us.
iv) From Today Into Tomorrow
As the frozenness of lockdown yields to a thaw,
hope lightens our hearts in new ways.
“At some point…” has given way to “Soon…”
And stages and timetables seem now to map our way
And measure society’s journey beyond this strangeness.
But ours is the responsibility of charting
The Kirk’s journey into Argyll’s altered future.
We need your wisdom,
guiding God, pioneering Christ, chaos-shaping Spirit.
We look always and only to you.
And as Jesus taught us, so we pray…